Pershing County Economic Development Executive Director Heidi Lusby-Angvick spoke in favor of allowing entrepreneurs to test possible business ideas by renting the commercial kitchen at the Pershing County Community Center. She called the concept a “business incubator.”
“The reason I put this on the agenda was because a business that wanted to use the community center kitchen and it was not approved through the commissioners,” she told the PCEDA board last week. “A kitchen incubator was something we discussed as a board several years ago. At that point in time, we did not really have any interest.”
Lusby-Angvick would like county leaders to reconsider their decision to deny a request to rent the community center commercial kitchen to test the market for a potential food business.
At the April 6, 2022, county commission meeting, Chelsea and Sherry Coyle requested use of the facility twice a month. Their business was listed on the agenda as “Whiskers Bakeshop.”
The board expressed concern about setting a new precedent that could open the door to more requests to use the community center for experimental businesses and said no to the request. Lusby-Angvick believes county leaders could try the idea then decide if it works for the county.
“When the business did go before the commission, I was not able to be there with them,” Lusby-Angvick explained last week. “I think that when it was denied, it wasn’t necessarily based upon Nevada health department stuff, I think it was based upon a feeling.”
Food storage concerns could be “worked through” and the business owner has an “umbrella” insurance policy that could cover her activities at the community center, Lusby-Angvick said.
“The lady has a policy that covers her whole farm and she could get the community center listed as an additional insured which is what we do for parties,” Lusby-Angvick said. “I think the thing that was bothersome was the comment that we are not in the business of subsidizing businesses. We as a community want to have entrepreneurship and so we’re not facilitating, we’re actually going against what we say we want to do which is to facilitate entrepreneurship.”
The test kitchen could operate after hours to avoid any conflicts with other groups that want to rent the facility for meetings and events, Lusby-Angvick said. The business incubator concept has been implemented in other communities so she believes the idea is worth some “follow up research” on the procedure before county leaders reject the concept.
“There was another person that came up to me and said they were thinking about this too,” Lusby-Angvick said. “I think we have the opportunity to encourage entrepreneurship. It is a little bit different but it’s not intrusive to the community center when it’s done in off hours. They’d be paying for the space which in turn helps our bottom line on that building.”
According to her research, other communities that have business incubators include Rockford, Illinois, Eugene and Springfield, Oregon, Lusby-Angvick said. She will conduct further research.
“I have not found one in the state of Nevada but I haven’t looked very hard either,” she said. “The other question we need to know the answer to is, what does the health department say?”
Lusby-Angvick may present her findings on business incubators to the county commission.
“Are we sure this is not a good use?” she asked the PCEDA board. “The other entity that uses the kitchen is the 4-H Club. They use the kitchen and sell their candy and stuff at the craft fair. Could we look into this a little further is all I am asking.”
PCEDA Board member Dave Skelton agreed to help investigate the concept.
“We could put the information together and that will let us know if this is viable,” he told the board. “If you are going to do this, this is the information you need to have.”